Long, but decent article by Greta.
When believers talk about atheists, they often don't bother to talk to any first. What are they afraid of?
June 28, 2012 |
Photo Credit: Ryan DeBerardinis/ Shutterstock.com
Did you hear the one about the Anglican minister who said atheists have no reason for grief?
I wish I was joking. I'm not. In a widely disseminated and discussed opinion piece, Anglican minister Rev. Gavin Dunbar made an interesting and even compelling argument that grief is necessary for love and humanity... and then went on to argue that, unless you believe in God, you have no reason to care whether the people you love live or die, or even to love them in the first place.
Again: I wish I was joking. I quote:
The new atheists proclaim their gospel with the fervour of believers: God is dead, man is free, free from the destructive illusions of religion and morality, of reason and virtue. But then a someone dies, suddenly and cruelly, like the young man known to many in ..[this] parish [in [Eastern Georgia] who was killed in a freakish accident last weekend. And his death casts a pall of grief over his family, his friends, their families, his school, and many others. Yet if he was no more than an arrangement of molecules, a selfish gene struggling to replicate itself, there can be no reason for grief, or for the love that grieves, since these are (we are told) essentially selfish survival mechanisms left over from some earlier stage in hominid evolution. Friendship is just another illusion. But of course we do grieve, even the atheists. And in so grieving, they grieve better than they know (or think they know).
The grieving atheist cannot provide any reason why he grieves, or why he (rightly) respects the grief of others.
My first reaction... well, to be honest, my first reaction was pretty close to blind rage. As an atheist, I've been targeted before with bigotry, with hostility, even with hatred and threats of violence. But rarely have I encountered a critic of atheism who was so ready to deny even my basic humanity, who was so ready to tell me -- and tell the world -- that because I am an atheist, I see not only morality and virtue, but love and friendship and grief, as an illusion. I actually agree with Dunbar that grief is one of the things that makes us human... and it filled me with rage to be told that, because I don't believe in a magical soul animating my body, because I don't think I'm going to see my dead loved ones in an invisible forever happy place, I am somehow incapable of experiencing this essential humanity. My first reaction on reading this piece was pretty much to scream "Fuck you" at my computer screen, and be done with it.
My second reaction was a desire to carefully, painstakingly, as patiently as possible, explain to Dunbar exactly how and why atheists value life and experience grief, and to go through his piece with a fine-toothed comb taking apart every ridiculous myth and piece of misinformed ignorance. That project might take weeks, though, since this piece is so full of it. So I'll just touch on the worst of it.
The most crucial point: Saying that life and morality and reason and virtue and emotions such as grief are physical processes -- this is not the same as saying they are illusions.
Yes, atheists think that morality and virtue, love and friendship, reason and grief, are physical phenomena with no supernatural component. We don't understand exactly how this works -- humanity is very much in the early stages of figuring out consciousness -- but an overwhelming body of evidence strongly points to that conclusion, and atheists understand and accept that. Whatever consciousness is, it is almost certainly a construct of the brain. And we think social experiences, such as morality, virtue, love, grief, are emotions and mental constructs, which evolved in us to help us survive and flourish as a social species.
But that is not the same as saying they are false. It is not the same as saying they are illusions. It is not the same as saying they have no meaning.
Okay, what a load of crock. However, taking the dear Anglican's argument to heart that only those who believe in a God can have grief implies that animals who grieve MUST believe in a God
Wild animals also grieve. Among the best examples are grieving rituals of elephants in the wild observed by such renowned researchers as Iain Douglas-Hamilton, Cynthia Moss and Joyce Poole. Captive elephantsalso grieve; see also. To quote Joyce Poole: "As I watched Tonie´s vigil over her dead newborn, I got my first very strong feeling that elephants grieve. I will never forget the expression on her face, her eyes, her mouth, the way she carried her ears, her head, and her body. Every part of her spelled grief". Young elephants who saw their mothers being killed often wake up screaming.
Cynthia Moss describes the actions of the members of an elephant family above after a group member had been shot: "Teresia and Trista became frantic and knelt down and tried to lift her up. They worked their tusks under her back and under her head. At one point they succeeded in lifting her into a sitting position but her body flopped back down. Her family tried everything to rouse her, kicking and tusking her, and Tullulah even went off and collected a trunkful of grass and tried to stuff it in her mouth."
Iain Douglas-Hamilton and his colleagues have shown that elephants extend this compassion to nonrelatives, to those who aren't genetically related, and at least one anecdote shows them extending it to humans. A news report told of an elephant in northern Kenya that trampled a human mother and her child and then stopped to bury them before disappearing in the bush. Elephants don't show concern just for their own kin, or their own kind, but rather elephants show a general concern for the plight of others.
Nonhuman primates also grieve the loss of others. Gana, a captive gorilla, clearly grieved the loss of her infant and the image of her carrying her dead baby was shown around the world. Jane Goodall observed Flint, a young chimpanzee, withdraw from his group, stop eating, and die of a broken heart after the death of his mother, Flo. Here is Goodall's description from her book Through a Window:
"Never shall I forget watching as, three days after Flo's death, Flint climbed slowly into a tall tree near the stream. He walked along one of the branches, then stopped and stood motionless, staring down at an empty nest. After about two minutes he turned away and, with the movements of an old man, climbed down, walked a few steps, then lay, wide eyes staring ahead. The nest was one which he and Flo had shared a short while before Flo died. . . . in the presence of his big brother [Figan], [Flint] had seemed to shake off a little of his depression. But then he suddenly left the group and raced back to the place where Flo had died and there sank into ever deeper depression. . . . Flint became increasingly lethargic, refused food and, with his immune system thus weakened, fell sick. The last time I saw him alive, he was hollow-eyed, gaunt and utterly depressed, huddled in the vegetation close to where Flo had died. . . . the last short journey he made, pausing to rest every few feet, was to the very place where Flo's body had lain. There he stayed for several hours, sometimes staring and staring into the water. He struggled on a little further, then curled up— and never moved again."
Another story of grieving chimpanzees recently was reported in the Daily Mail.
Gorillas are known to hold wakes for dead friends, something that some zoos have formalized in a ceremony when one of their gorillas passes away. Donna Fernandes, now president of the Buffalo Zoo, tells the story of being at Boston's Franklin Park Zoo ten years ago during the wake for a female gorilla, Babs, who had died of cancer. She describes seeing the gorilla's longtime mate say good-bye: "He was howling and banging his chest,... and he picked up a piece of her favorite food — celery — and put it in her hand and tried to get her to wake up. I was weeping, it was so emotional." Later, the scene at Babs's December funeral was similarly moving. As reported by local news, gorilla family members "one by one ... filed into" the room where "Babs's body lay," approaching their "beloved leader" and "gently sniffing the body."
When Sylvia, a baboon, lost Sierra, her closest grooming partner and daughter to a lion, she responded in a way that would be considered very human-like: she looked to friends for support. Said Anne Engh, a researcher in he University of Pennsylvania's Department of Biology. "With Sierra gone, Sylvia experienced what could only really be described as depression, corresponding with an increase in her glucocorticoid levels."
Jim and Jamie Dutcher describe the grief and mourning in a wolf pack after the loss of the low-ranking omega female wolf, Motaki, to a mountain lion. The pack lost their spirit and their playfulness. They no longer howled as a group, but rather they "sang alone in a slow mournful cry." They were depressed — tails and heads held low and walking softly and slowly — when they came upon the place where Motaki was killed. They inspected the area and pinned their ears back and dropped their tails, a gesture that usually means submission. It took about six weeks for the pack to return to normal. The Dutchers also tell of a wolf pack in Canada in which one pack member died and the others wandered about in a figure eight as if searching for her. They also howled long and mournfully. Foxes also have been observed performing funeral rituals.
Thanks Doone I had the same thoughts about animals grieving but did not know how to express them. That says it better than I would have.
...unless you believe in God, you have no reason to care whether the people you love live or die, or even to love them in the first place.
WOW! This guy's understanding of human psychology is... staggering. It baffles me as to how persons like him be put in charge of other people's mental sanity.
World: South Asia
Elephant dies of grief
Damini would stroke her pregnant friend's stomach with her trunk
An elderly female elephant has died of grief at an Indian zoo after the death of a close friend.
Damini, who was 72, had befriended a younger pregnant elephant called Champakali at the Prince of Wales Zoo in Lucknow.
But she starved herself to death in misery when Champakali died in childbirth.
Their zookeeper is mourning the loss of his two charges. "It will take me some time to get over the death of my two loved ones," said her keeper, who goes by the name of Kamaal.
The two elephants became inseparable in September after Champakali was brought in pregnant from Dudhwa National Park where she had worked carrying tourists.
She was in Lucknow for maternity leave, and Damini immediately became her best friend and surrogate mother.
According to animal experts, this kind of deep attachment is common among elephants, with older ones often taking a mothering role.
"Elephants are very social animals. They can form very close bonds with others in their social group," said Pat Thomas, curator of mammals at the Bronx Zoo in New York City.
But when Champakali died giving birth to a stillborn calf last month, Damini lost all interest in her food and began starving herself to death.
Zoo officials said she shed tears over her friend's body, then stood still in her enclosure for days.
Over the next 24 days she barely nibbled her diet of sugar cane, bananas and grass until her legs swelled up and she collapsed.
She then lay still, losing weight and crying, and a week ago stopped eating or drinking her daily 40 gallons of water, despite the hot weather.
Her keepers tried to keep her cool by building around her a makeshift tent of fragrant grass and spraying her with water.
Vets tried to save her by pumping more than 25 gallons of glucose and vitamins into her veins, but she died on Wednesday.
Kamaal has now buried her next to her friend.
"In the face of Damini's intense grief, all our treatment failed," said Dr Utkarsh Shukla, the zoo vet.
It's getting to the point where I automatically insert a dumbfuck tag before posting.
Will be working on a DUMBFUCK sticker.
Couldn't help but laugh.